February 14, 2016

New Jersey MS Patient Appeals Marijuana Cultivation to State Supreme Court

Attorney Bill Buckman at the PhillyNORML Freedom Forum 2009

8/16/2011 – Criminal defense attorney William Buckman of Moorestown, NJ has filed an appeal to the state’s highest court for John Ray Wilson. The 38 year old man was convicted on the second-degree felony of “manufacturing” marijuana for growing seventeen cannabis plants.  Last month an appellate court upheld Wilson’s 5-year prison sentence, saying that he could not claim that the plants were for “personal” use.

John Wilson lives without healthcare and battles the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His conviction in January 2010 came just as the Garden State’s compassionate use law was passed. However, it was the first medical marijuana law in the country that continues to prohibit home cultivation.

In a press release today Buckman said, “New Jersey already has some of the most draconian laws in the nation with respect to marijuana, costing taxpayers outrageous sums to incarcerate nonviolent, otherwise responsible individuals– as well as in this case — the sick and infirm.”

Local cannabis advocates have supported John, demonstrating in front of the Somerset County Courthouse throughout his trial.

Ken Wolski, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey said, “This case has shocked the conscience of the community. Wilson was unable to present his only defense to the jury–that he used cannabis to treat his multiple sclerosis (MS).”

NJ Governor Chris Christie lifted his suspension of the medical marijuana program in July. But the six Alternative Treatment Centers are not likely to open until 2012. The ATCs have millions of dollars in backing from powerful groups of investors.  They will farm thousands of cannabis plants and the sell the products to registered patients, including those with MS.

Wolski pointed out, “These ATCs were not available to John in 2008. Cultivation was the only way that he could afford to gain access. We hope that the Supreme Court will provide justice in this case.”

During his trial, Wilson testified that he told the NJ State Police that he was going to keep all of the marijuana. Wilson also described his medical condition to officers as they searched his home.

Bill Buckman is a member of the national NORML Legal Committee and the immediate past president of the NJ Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a fierce trial lawyer who won a landmark case against the NJ State Police surrounding the the issue of racial profiling in traffic stops.

“As it stands, the case now allows a person who grows marijuana to be exposed to up to 20 years in jail, even if that marijuana is strictly for his or her own medical use,” said Buckman, “No fair reading of the law would ever sanction this result.”

William Buckman http://www.whbuckman.com

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

IMPORTANT – Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com




New Jersey MS Patient Prepares for Medical Marijuana Prison Term

John Wilson (left) stand with supporter Jim Miller in front of the Somerset courthouse in 2010

8/9/2011 – John Ray Wilson is saying goodbye to his family. The 38 year old man lives with multiple sclerosis and without healthcare. Last month an appellate court ruled to uphold his 2010 conviction for “manufacturing” marijuana. He is now living in limbo as a judge considers his bail during a final appeal to the state Supreme Court. John may have to begin serving a 5-year prison sentence any day.

Wilson grew seventeen cannabis plants in the backyard of his Franklin Township home.  This was an effort to treat his condition. His trial in 2009/2010 took place at the same time as the final debates over the compassionate use act in the NJ legislature. Supporters demonstrated in front of the Somerville Courthouse. But the law was too late for John Wilson.  [Read more…]

Florida Pays To Bury Teen After Marijuana Arrest

Eric Perez in a photo provided by his family to the media - posted at the Miami Herald website

8/1/2011 -State authorities in Florida caused a stir last week when they stopped a check to pay for the funeral services of a teenager who died after jail staff refused him medical attention. The West Palm Beach Post reported that a $5,000 check issued at the request of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was destroyed last week by the state’s Chief Financial Officer. Today the same newspaper is reporting that state CFO Jeff Atwater re-issued the check.

On the night of July 9th Eric Perez as just another young resident in Florida with a small amount of marijuana. He turned 18 just a few weeks earlier. But the next morning Perez was dead. What happened in the time between is the subject of an intense and ongoing investigation.  Some disturbing details have already emerged. [Read more…]

Penn. Prosecutors: Medical Marijuana Not a Law Enforcement Question

7/12/2011 – During an hour-long public radio program Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said that the Pennsylvania DA’s Association is taking no position on the medical marijuana bill. Freed explained the stance on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk , “I don’t think any prosecutor I know would want to prevent a terminally ill person from alleviating [their] suffering.”

Freedomisgreen Editor Chris Goldstein was the proponent guest representing Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana and PhillyNORML.

Later in the program Freed reinforced the position, “I don’t think that medical marijuana is necessarily a law enforcement issue. I think that advocates like Chris need to go to the Legislature and what happens there …happens.” [Read more…]

Interview: Cop Honors Fallen Partner by Working to Legalize

Neill Franklin speaking in Philadelphia - by C. David Freitag

5/13/2011 – Tonight in Washington DC there was a memorial for police officers killed in the line of duty. One of those keeping vigil was Neill Franklin. He worked undercover on the streets of Baltimore but now he is one of America’s leading voices calling for an end to the war on drugs as the executive director of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. [Read more…]

Former Undercover Cop Lobbies to Legalize Marijuana in Maine

Jack Cole of LEAP speaks at the Boston Freedom Rally 2010

5/10/2011 – Jack Cole used to go deep undercover to bust marijuana dealers in New York and New Jersey. But since his retirement he founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group that now boasts thousands of retired and current members of law enforcement who want to stop the war on drugs. Marijuana consumes most of the resources in this senseless conflict. Nobody knows that better than Cole, that’s why he has traveled to Augusta, Maine to speak before the first committee hearing for cannabis legalization later  today.  [Read more…]

Florida man wins medical marijuana defense

4/29/2011 – Even in states without a specific law seriously ill residents are fighting for the right to access cannabis. Today a court in Florida dismissed charges against a disabled man because he was using marijuana for medical purposes.

From WPEC – CBS 12 Boynton Beach, FL

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla.  —  53-year-old Jeff Kennedy was prepared to spend five years in prison for growing medical marijuana for medical reasons. But on Friday, Kennedy showed up in court wearing a t-shirt stating, ‘I am a patient not a criminal,’ and it turns out the state agrees. The state dropped the charges at the last minute.

“I’m just going to go forward and advocate for medical cannabis,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy suffers from chronic pain caused by a botched back surgery. His legs burn and twitch constantly. Doctors have prescribed him a cocktail of highly addictive and dangerous pain killers.

“It is slowly killing me,” said Kennedy. Read more: http://www.cbs12.com/articles/fla-4732209-marijuana-medical.html#ixzz1Kxhg6Wps

Last month FL Rep. Jeff Clemens introduced a resolution that would create a state regulated medical cannabis system. If there are more advocates like Mr. Kennedy it may not take long to pass.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

Florida Rolls Forward for Medical Marijuana

Florida: Robert Platshorn Moves Medical Marijuana

Listen up: WNYC on the racial disparity of pot arrests

Empire State NORML logo

WNYC, the local public radio station for America’s biggest metropolis, trained their microphones on the police practices concerning marijuana arrests. NYC has the dubious distinction of having the greatest number of marijuana arrests for any locality – it surpasses many whole states. Still, the urban police practice of targeting young, African-American marijuana consumers is not isolated to the Big Apple. Similar racial disparities exist in Philadelphia and likely in most other large cities.

Dr. Harry Levine with the Drug Policy Alliance issued a detailed report about the NYC arrests in March that has spurred increased attention to the issue.  $75 Million a Year: The Cost of New York City’s Marijuana Possession Arrests

The WNYC audio is embedded below but the full text story is also essential reading.

WNYC: Alleged Illegal Searches by NYPD May Be Increasing Marijuana Arrests

[This is the first story in a two-part series. Read the second part here.]

Police arrest 140 people every day in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It’s now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city, and thousands of these arrests take place when police stop-and-frisk young men in the poorest neighborhoods. While police say these stop-and-frisks are a way to find guns, what they find more often is a bag of marijuana.

An investigation by WNYC suggests that some police officers may be violating people’s constitutional rights when they are making marijuana arrests. Current and former cops, defense lawyers and more than a dozen men arrested for the lowest-level marijuana possession say illegal searches take place during stop-and-frisks, which are street encounters carried out overwhelmingly on blacks and Latinos.  READ FULL STORY


Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Progressing in Connecticut


State House in Hartford, CT

Legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults is moving forward in Hartford. The Joint Judiciary Committee approved the bill on Tuesday April 12th. The proposed change in state law would allow for a $100 fine and a non-criminal citation for those caught with up to a half-ounce of cannabis. The original language called for possession of up to one ounce. [Read more…]

Philadelphia Saving Time and Money with New Pot Procedure

PhillyNORML's annual cannabis march on South Street takes place on Saturday May 21, 2011.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office is calling a new set of procedures for minor pot cases a success and plans to continue with the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program.

Last year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court worked with the new DA, Seth Williams, to make a pragmatic change in how the justice system deals with marijuana possession of 30 grams or less. A new program was created that includes a diversion court appearance, an education class and fees of $200. The major difference is that there is no longer an instant criminal prosecution. The offender pleads to a non-drug related charge that is automatically expunged from their record.

In January PhillyNORML’s Chris Goldstein spoke with Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Joe McGettigan about the new marijuana policy. McGettigan said that the SAM program is working, “Look, certainly this was a much better option than sending all these people into the criminal court last year for misdemeanors.”

The DA’s office provided the following figures related to the SAM program:

June 2010 to September 2010

1636 marijuana possession cases less than 30 grams TOTAL

339 bench warrants issued for failure to appear

1297 marijuana possession cases less than 30g are heard

1025 enter the Small Amount of Marijuana diversion program ( 79% )

81 went to trial

187 statuses continued

4 cases withdrawn

The procedural shift has eased penalties and a particularly harsh process for offenders. For the last two decades anyone in Philadelphia who was caught with a single joint on up to 30 grams was held for bail then prosecuted in a criminal court. This involves a tremendous amount of the justice system’s resources and the expensive procedure was almost unique in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

There are over 4,500 such cases in Philly every year (the largest concentration of pot arrests in PA) so minor marijuana offenses were literally clogging holding cells, bail officer, printing machines, court reporters, clerks, judges and courtrooms. The real world cost savings for the city this year by eliminating those expenses could tally into the millions.The shift also made a significant, tactile change; residents who consume marijuana and run afoul of prohibition laws have a less traumatic experience.

PhillyNORML’s Chris Goldstein said, “This was a positive shift for the city. Still minor marijuana possession arrests are increasing and continue a disturbing trend of being extremely racially disparate.”

An average of about 325 black men, 50 black women, 95 white men and 8 white women will be arrested every month this year in Philadelphia.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high